How to Compost in an Apartment

Do you think you need a large backyard area to compost? The truth is that you can compost with limited space, including inside the constraints of apartment living. 

It might surprise you when you learn how simple the process is.

Let’s discuss the various options available when you want to learn how to compost in your apartment

Use a Compost Tumbler

A compost tumbler is a large bin that preserves the amount of heat necessary to increase decomposition speeds.

  IM4000 Dual Chamber Tumbling Composter (Black)

These tumblers typically come with handles or other types of turning mechanisms. The turning process mixes the contents and aerates your compost

Some models work quickly so that you can process your waste in two short weeks. 

A compost tumbler works well when you have access to an apartment balcony, patio, or yard. You might ask your landlord for permission to use the roof as well. 

One added advantage to compost tumblers is that they’re sealed containers. This means pests like mice, raccoons, or rats can’t gain access to them. 

You won’t smell anything either because of your ability to seal the bin. 

How to Store Compost Before Depositing It in Your Tumbler

Since you can’t use a compost tumbler inside your actual apartment, you need a way to store your compost between trips to it. 

One solution is to use a ceramic or stainless steel compost pail. Find one with a lid that fits tightly. A tight lid prevents your apartment from filling up with the compost’s odor. 

EPICA Stainless Steel Compost Bin 1.3 Gallon-Includes Charcoal Filter

How to Operate a Compost Tumbler

Add kitchen and yard scraps periodically to the tumbler. Turn it several times each week. Stop adding new waste once it’s full. 

Keep turning it a few times weekly for two to three weeks until the contents decompose completely. 

Consider buying two tumblers so you can add new waste to one while the other goes through the final decomposing process.

Use a Yard/Kitchen Waste Combo

Strive for a healthy combination of green and brown waste. Green waste is nitrogen-rich. Brown waste is carbon-rich. 

This combination works to attain the most desirable heat temperatures. It also helps cut down on undesirable compost smells. 

Green waste is typically made from:

  • Soil
  • Grains
  • Coffee grounds
  • Veggie scraps
  • Fruit scraps

Brown waste comes from:

  • Twigs
  • Eggshells
  • Nutshells
  • Newspaper shreddings
  • Leaves

How to Determine If a Compost Tumbler Is Right for You

Here are some points to help you decide if you want to use a compost tumbler. 

Typically, you’ll find that a compost tumbler holds more material than a worm composter. 

Compost gets heavier as it decomposes. Depending on your personal strength, you might discover that a compost tumbler is hard to turn. 

Don’t fill it to capacity if you have trouble turning it. 

You can’t add new scraps to your tumbler during the two- to three-week decomposition period. A solution is to purchase two tumblers. Another option is buying a dual-compartment tumbler.

You’ll need more space when compared to using a worm composter. A compost tumbler needs an outside apartment location such as a patio or balcony. 

Use a Worm Composter

It doesn’t take much effort or money to use a worm composter. They’re odorless, efficient, and offer a small solution for composting in an apartment. 

VermiHut Plus 5-Tray Worm Compost Bin – Easy Setup and Sustainable Design

You rarely need more than $50-$100 to buy a worm composter. It requires:

  • Organic matter
  • Worm castings
  • Several plastic storage bins

It tucks out of sight underneath a kitchen counter or in one of your closets. You’ll also hear these composters referred to as vermicomposters.

An advantage to a worm composter over a compost tumbler is that it doesn’t require turning. 

Compost typically needs the turning motion to decompose. In this case, the worms perform this work for you. 

All you need to do is regularly feed the worms. Provide them the proper conditions they require to thrive and then let them do their natural work. 

Make a Homemade Worm Composter

All you need to make a DIY worm composter is a plastic bin. Drill a few top ventilation holes and some bottom drainage holes into the bin. 

Fill it to one-third of its capacity with soil and shredded newspaper. You can also substitute cardboard for the newspaper. 

Create a double-decker version by placing one bin inside the other. Make sure the top bin has drainage holes. 

This provides the benefit of letting worms crawl through the drainage holes as they travel from one bin to the other. 

The second benefit is you can harvest from the bin with finished compost without removing the worms.

Of course, you can buy a ready-made composter if you’d rather not build your own. 

No matter which type you choose, purchase your worms, and then you’re on your way to composting inside your apartment. One pound of red wigglers should get you started just fine. 

How to Determine If a Worm Composter Is Right for You

This option works best when you need to compost in small batches. 

While you can add kitchen scraps to a worm compost at any time, multiple-tier compost bins allow you to use compost without removing worms from the process. 

You’ll need a regular supply of carbon sources to offset the high concentration of nitrogen from the kitchen scraps. Again, cardboard or newspaper works well for this purpose. 

A small balcony or indoor use works best. 

It’s best to place an outdoor worm compost in areas where temperatures remain between 35 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Bring your worms inside during freezing weather. 

Use an Electric Composter

You can use an electric composter that sits on a counter if your apartment offers only the most limited of spaces. 

Vitamix 068051 FoodCycler FC-50, 2L Capacity, Grey

An electric composter gives you a dry, rich fertilizer in a matter of hours. The compost from these small devices rarely exposes you to any odors. 

The fertilizer that results from an electric composter isn’t composted in the purest sense. It mimics the composting process by pulverizing, heating, and aerating kitchen scraps. 

Unlike the traditional composting method, these machines allow you to use dairy and meat products. 

How to Determine If an Electric Composter Is Right for You

This is an excellent option when dealing with limited apartment space. 

You might not like the fact that these machines run on electricity. You’ll need to go to a more natural process if this environmental aspect concerns you. 

An electric composter is more expensive than a worm composter. Expect to pay up to $250 or $300 for a quality electric composter. 

You gain speed with these machines. There’s no need to wait two to three weeks like you do when using other composting methods. 

Use a Government or Private Collection Program

Some cities offer compost collection services where you leave your compost at the curb. The collection program’s workers pick up your compost and leave you a fresh bucket in its place.

You’ll need to investigate a little bit to find out whether your municipality offers the service. If not, look around for any private companies that do. 

The following cities are examples of locations where government-run services exist:

  • Portland, OR
  • Boulder, CO
  • San Francisco, CA

New York City offers an example of a private company stepping in to help with composting. 

In 2020, a non-profit organization offered free weekly compost drop-offs after the city suspended its services during the COVID-19 crisis.

Chicago’s WasteNot Compost, Boston’s Bootstrap Compost, and North Carolina’s CompostNow offer pick-up services for a fee. 

How to Determine If Private or Government Services Work for You

You’ll probably pay more than $500 annually to have someone pick up compost for you. Doing your own composting always offers the less expensive option. 

Getting compost picked up at the curb means you don’t worry about cleaning challenges. You’ll never have to maintain your system either. 

You’re supporting local companies by using their compost pick-up services. It’s also a way to give compost to local gardens because many pick-up services donate to them. 

Using a government or private compost collection service provides you a trouble-free option. 

What Should You Do with Your Extra Compost?

You’ll likely have leftover compost that you can’t use. This is true even if you’re simply using a small DIY compost container. 

You should know that many gardeners want more compost. Try offering it to your landlord first.

He or she might love it if you want to add it to the landscaping around your building. 

If the landlord doesn’t need it, then reach out to local community gardens. They will receive with open arms any compost you decide to donate to them. You might receive free veggies in return.


Did you previously know that so many apartment composting solutions existed? 

You can choose the one that resonates most with you and do your part to keep environmentally unfriendly compost from hitting our landfills. 

Beyond that, you have the power to create the fertilizer that helps you grow more plants and vegetables

At the very least, make it a goal to help out locals with compost generated by your apartment project.

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